Runners on the Seacoast are drawn to the beautiful New Castle loop, a 6-mile route that crosses a number of bridges with gorgeous views winding from Portsmouth through historic New Castle and into Rye with plenty of rolling hills along the way.

The loop is one part of the very popular Seacoast Half Marathon, which takes place on Sunday morning, beginning and ending at Portsmouth High School. The race typically sells out prior to race day and this year is no exception; the race reached its maximum capacity of 1,400 preregistered runners and racewalkers in early October.

In its inaugural year in 2006, the Seacoast Half was one of only six half marathons in the state and the only one in the Seacoast area. Now in its 13th year, the Seacoast Half is one of many half marathons runners can choose to run, but part of what distinguishes it from other races is its mission of “caring for the coast, one step at a time,” which includes donating 100 percent of the net race proceeds to a Seacoast nonprofit.

“In 13 years we have donated about $1.2M, and over the last four years we have exceeded $100,000 contributed to a single beneficiary for each (race),” said race organizing committee member Bruce Hurley. “Past beneficiaries include Cross Roads House, Gather, the Chase Home, Womenaid, Great Bay Services and, this year, the Birchtree Center,” said Hurley.

In recognition of outstanding contributions to volunteerism, the Seacoast Half race committee will receive a 2018 Volunteer Service Award during the Spirit of New Hampshire Awards ceremony in Concord on Nov. 13. The Volunteer Service Awards recognize individuals and groups who provide volunteer services that strengthen communities and improve the lives of the citizens of New Hampshire. Hurley said that “the charitable aspect of the race gets overshadowed by the running part, so it’s nice to shine a light on that when we can.”

This year’s nonprofit beneficiary is located in Newington. The Birchtree Center’s mission is to promote independence, engaging relationships and productive lives for children and youth with autism. According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 59 American children has been diagnosed with autism or a closely related neurodevelopmental disorder. The boost in fundraising provided by the Seacoast Half Marathon will help the more than 500 individuals that the Birchtree Center serves yearly, including children and youth with autism, their families, their teachers, caregivers and members of the public who attend their educational programs and events.

From a running perspective, the reason the race continues to sell out every year is simply because it’s a great race. The spectacular course, legions of volunteers, excellent after-race food and popular long-sleeve race shirts all add up to draw competitive runners, first-timers and every type of runner and walker looking for a great half marathon. Logistics for the race work well and there is plenty of parking available and access to Portsmouth High School to stay warm (and sometimes dry) before and after the race.

Local sponsors are another reason the race is able to raise so much money. “A big part of coming up with $100,000 a year is thanks to the local businesses who choose to sponsor the event with donations of cash, supplies or food,” said Hurley. Sponsors this year include People’s United Bank, Bangor Savings Bank, Ocean Properties Ltd., Runner’s Alley, Exeter Hospital, Hoka One One and Planet Fitness. As an added bonus this year, Runner’s Alley will donate $5 for every runner who finishes ahead of WMUR sportscaster (and obviously very good sport) Jamie Staton, up to $2,500.

Best of luck to everyone running the race and congratulations to the race committee for many years of great races and support of our local nonprofits.

RUNNING NOTES

On Nov. 17 is the Tiger Trot 5K in Hampton Falls and the Girls on the Run 5K New Hampshire in Concord. Turkey trot season has begun! On Nov. 17 is the Deerfield Community School Turkey Trot 5K, the Turkey Trot 5K in Wolfeboro and the Turkey Trot 10K/5K in Sanford, Maine; on Nov. 18 is the Hanover Turkey Trot 10K/5K.

Nancy Eckerson writes about running for Seacoast Sunday. You can reach her at nerunner1@comcast.net